Updated at 9:35 am EST
UnitedHealth Group (UNH) - Get UnitedHealth Group Incorporated Report posted stronger-than-expected fourth quarter earnings Wednesday as its healthcare solutions division Optum once again powered the group's top and bottom lines.
UnitedHealth said adjusted profits for the three months ended in December came in at $4.48 a share, up 77.7% from the same period last year and 17 cents ahead of the Wall Street consensus forecast of $4.31 per share. Group revenue, UnitedHealth said, rose 12.5% to $73.7 billion, again topping analysts' estimates of a $72.75 billion tally, while Optum revenue rose 14.5% to $41.1 billion.
Looking into the 2022 calendar year, Dow component UnitedHealth confirmed its November forecast that revenues in the region of $317 billion to $320 billion and adjusted earnings between $21.10 to $21.60 per share. Cash flow from operations, UnitedHealth said, was pegged at $23 billion to $24 billion.
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“Our strong 2021 performance and confident growth outlook for 2022 and beyond reflect the accelerating innovation and expanding capabilities across Optum and UnitedHealthcare,” said CEO Andrew Witty.
United Health shares were marked 1.2% higher in early Wednesday trading immediately following the earnings release to change hands at $466.65 each, a move that would extend the stock's six-month gain to around 14%.
U.S. corporate earnings will be back in focus again this week as around 40 S&P 500 companies update on fourth quarter profits following a mixed series of reports last week from Wall Street's biggest banks.
Collective S&P 500 earnings are expected to rise 23.1% from last to $434.4 billion, according to Refinitiv forecasts, before slowing to an annual rate of around 19.5% for the whole of 2022.